Hip Hop pioneer and activist KRS-One has built a career on using rap music to speak to the social ills affecting the black community.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the New York rapper asked blacks to “Stop the Violence”. The 1988 song Self Destruction inspired the movement, which is seeing a reemergence.

KRS One, 42, whose real name is Lawrence Kris Parker, recently chose Chicago as the kick-off city of his nationwide tour of his Stop The Violence Movement (STVM).

To date, more than two dozen Chicago youth have been killed this current school year, many the unintended victims of gun violence. KRS-One’s tour was in Chicago the week of April 13. His stops throughout Chicago included a press conference at the James R. Thompson Center, downtown and to Crane High School on the West Side, where 18-year-old Ruben Ivy was shot after school on March 7.

At his April 13, Chicago press conference, KRS-One addressed several issues, including what role rappers can play in saving youth.

“If you criticize us and say we are the cause of violence-meaning we are the ones inspiring youth to be as aggressive as they are-I will accept that, if we also accept that those who have the power to cause violence can also stop violence,” he said.

On America’s obsession with negative black male images, KRS-One explained: “The black man is in a compromising position, a subordinate position, and a chained up, locked up position. And it doesn’t only work for black people- it works for whites, Asians, blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, everybody. When you look at Asians, what makes money is martial arts. You look at Italians, what makes the money is their organized crime history. HBO hasn’t put a decent history of that people on that network yet. You look at The Sopranos. That is a total disrespect to the Italian people; to say that’s what Italian is-that, and a pizza? That’s what I would call racism. What I’m saying is; everyone suffers from that.”

KRS-One also talked about reaching out to gangs to stop the violence.

“We want to sit down and have a meeting with the Vice Lords. They’re all my fans,” he said. “They all admire my music. They all admire what I stand for.

“I’m not here to tell you what to do, and what not to do. Our message is: ‘You know you’re on your way to jail. You know you’re on the way to the graveyard. Now, if you want that for yourself, then who am I to judge? But if you don’t want that for yourself, well, come on over here.’ And, I guarantee you, half of them will.”

The Bronx native’s Stop the Violence Movement has attracted some of today’s popular Hip Hop artists.

“There’s a website (www.stvsite.org). On that site you will see 50 Cent say, ‘I want to change my lyrics.’ You will see Cassidy, who just got off of death row and is currently healing from a motorcycle accident. He will say, ‘You know, after that experience, I think I’m going to have to change my lyrics. I think I might have to grow up.’ That points to the direction of the movement itself,” KRS-One said. “This is not just about conscious rappers saying ‘Stop the violence.’ We need 50. We need Fat Joe….This is a movement for artists to consider their own maturity.”

Stop the violence 20 years later

KRS-One and his group, Boogie Down Productions, recorded Self Destruction in 1988. A year later, the song helped launch his Stop the Violence Movement. The song has been reprised with the new version titled “Self Construction,” which is part of an album KRS-One is currently working that will feature contributions from such artists as 50 Cent and Lil’ Wayne.